We made it home last night after traveling 6,100 miles in 38 days. A summary of the past week:
Before we left the Phoenix area, Kris was determined to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ. We met long time friend, Martha Gomez and her husband for a tour of this unique place. Wright was quite the architectural visionary and genius and we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of his home and studio.
our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park with a good view of Superstition Mountain
Superstition Mountain at sunset
Lego model of Taliesin West
We left Scottsdale and headed north to Show Low, crossing the Salt River Canyon – a very scenic drive. The next morning found us driving through Snowflake, AZ with snow falling. Before the road got too treacherous, we were clear of the snow and near Petrified Forest National Park. We had planned to hike a bit and explore more than we been able to on previous summer visits, but the day was overcast and blustery so we made just a quick visit. We continued on to Gallup, NM to a motel for the night – no camping in 16 degree weather for us as we have no heat source in our truck camper! We did enjoy finding some geocaches relating to Historic Route 66 in town. The cliffs around Gallup were quite pretty with snow contrasting with the red rock and evergreen foliage. We drove across New Mexico and through Albuquerque without stopping – Kris' sister moved back to Houston last year so we have no family or friends there to visit anymore. We stopped at Ute Lake State Park near the town of Logan and prepared for a night of camping in below-freezing weather. Low temperature was 28, but we were fine sleeping in our long underwear and heavy sleeping bags. We kept hand and foot warmer handy but did not need them. There was a coating of ice on the inside of the camper windows in the morning . . . we are pretty tough, but I don't think we want to try camping in temperatures any lower than 28!
Salt River Canyon between Globe and Show Low, AZ
Salt River Canyon
Finding a geocache in Snowflake, AZ
Snowing in Snowflake, AZ
Petrified Forest National Park
Petrified Forest NP
Petrified Forest National Park
Back in Texas, we settled in at Palo Duro Canyon State Park (our last visit there was 30 years ago). We had planned to stay three nights, but there was a county-wide burn ban in effect that included propane stoves. Without a way of cooking, we decided to stay only two nights. We were able to plug in our electric coffee pot in the restroom and use it to heat up water for instant oatmeal. As long as we could start the day with our coffee, we were okay! There are dozens of geocaches in PDSP so we kept busy. We did run into a 'bump in the road' when the truck wouldn't start after one of our stops so we had to call the auto club for a tow into the nearest town, Canyon. It turned out to be an easy fix – a new battery – and we took the opportunity while in town to grab a hot restaurant meal before returning to the park. We only lost about 4 hours of the day so we embarked on the Lighthouse Trail (6 miles round trip) and spent the rest of the day marveling at the colorful cliffs and the iconic hoodoo called The Lighthouse. We took full advantage of a recently remodeled bathhouse in the park and took long, hot showers after the hike – bliss! We met a friendly, helpful park volunteer named Eddie on several occasions while in the park. In fact, he was the only one to stop and check on us while we waited for the tow truck with our hood open on the side of the road. He even extended an invitation to share his campsite if we needed a place to stay. Perhaps one day we will volunteer in parks like he does – when we run out of places to go and things to see.
Lighthouse Trail in Palo Duro Canyon SP
gypsum layer along the trail (orange pen for scale)
Next we moved on to Caprock Canyon State Park – our favorite Texas state park. As soon as we crossed the cattle guard into the park, we saw some of the bison that make their home in the park. We were pleasantly surprised to see a prairie dog colony right next to one of the campgrounds as well. We don't remember seeing these entertaining creatures at this park on our previous visits. As soon as we found our campsite, we got out our propane stove and cooked up the food we had in our cooler – chicken fajitas with onion, bell pepper, and shredded cheese on tortillas – a great camping meal that requires only one pan! With enough daylight to explore, we drove to the end of the park road to look for a geocache and met a young couple from Dallas who were on their first camping trip together. We chatted a bit and found out that the young man had grown up in our neighborhood and graduated from Clear Lake High School. They graciously invited us to share their campfire and we spent an enjoyable evening talking about great parks to visit and our travel experiences. They seemed to be genuinely receptive to our suggestions and it is always nice to hear others affirm our travel choices. We wish them well on their adventures together.
As we were leaving Caprock Canyon SP, we stopped to watch the bison herd cross the road in front of us. We drove across the Texas Panhandle plains and into central Texas. We stopped to visit our friend, Margaret, in Clifton and visited Waco Mammoth National Monument before stopping for the night in Austin to see our son, Joel. He is in the middle of his Social Work internship where he is researching and analyzing new legislation during the current legislative session. Our visit was too short, but he is quite busy these days.
Columbian mammoths were 14 feet tall!
Brian negotiated the nerve-wracking Houston traffic through freeway construction zones after dark and we arrived in our driveway safely. Again, we count ourselves lucky and blessed for another awesome adventure together. Now we have 4 days to turn around and get ready for a family campout at Huntsville State Park with some of our children and grandchildren next week. Life is good!